One of my top ten movies of all time, even though I’ve decades since outgrown my Bukowski period. This is the full movie. Enjoy!
It was maybe 11pm, deep into a Northern BC January Saturday night. We were both falling-down drunk, and we were 17 years old. We were sitting on crusty snow, leaning back against the side of somebody’s car, gazing up into the snowflakes falling gently out of the pitch-black sky. Everything was muffled and peaceful in the way it gets when the snow falls after dark. Clean, cold, quiet, even though we could hear the distant thump of Hell’s Bells coming from the basement party we’d left a few minutes ago. Lazy Christmas lights were still twinkling here and there. Fifteen minutes earlier, she’d asked me to hold her hair back while she puked into the toilet, something that in my hometown was tantamount to asking a guy to go steady. After, she’d asked me to walk her home. I wasn’t anywhere near sober, but she was plastered, and her parents’ house was a good 3 blocks away. I was in love with her. I had been for years. I’d never told her.
It was back in September, and the Korean doctor was running the ultrasound wand back and forth across my lubed-up abdomen, shaking his head and looking stern. “Patty Ribber” he repeated, three or four times, pointing at the monitor, on which I saw nothing but the usual indecipherable patterns of amorphous grey blobs. I nodded like I knew what he was saying, which is my usual strategy. After nearly 15 years since I came to Korea, I’m still not that great at parsing things out when I’m in an unfamiliar situation.
The doc sat back down behind his desk while his disconcertingly attractive nurse wiped the lube off my stomach, and started talking at my wife, in the arrogant tones that Korean doctors favour. I was catching one word in three, as usual, but when she grabbed a piece of paper from a stack on the shelf beside her and handed it to me at his behest, and I saw the picture, “patty ribber” suddenly resolved in my brain to “fatty liver” and my blood ran cold.
So I was hanging around at the Metafilter, as I do, and I was posting the occasional comment, as I do, and drinking beer, as I do, because it was a Friday night, and that’s what I tend to do on a Friday night.
Another guy, this Canadian guy, this guy who’d lived in Japan for a few years and eventually gone back to Canada, someone I’d identified with even though I don’t rightly know if I ever will actually go back to Canada, had said
At least it’s not hockey. What a stupid sport.
(Although these are my true feelings, to say this publicly in Canada is close to something like sacrilege, and I’m not exaggerating.)
So I got my shit all up in a righteous internet uproar and said (and reproduce here because I’d like to remember I said it, self-indulgent and shouty as it is):
I spent a decade or two of my post-pubescent life, times when I was actually in Canada at least part-time and it seemed to matter, telling people how much I fucking didn’t care about hockey, because, you know, that’s what a certain kind of guy does. But I’d sit and watch the goddamn game and drink a hell of a lot of booze and take whatever drugs were to hand and make inappropriate and often successful sexual advances at the desperately bored women who were hanging around unwilling having their own fun while the idiot rinktard puckheads got their stick on.
But I’ll tell you this: I fucking love hockey now, in retrospect, but only in the abstract because I love the idea of stupid toothless meatpuppets beating the living shit out of each other on the ice for the amusement of the Home Audience. I used to poo-poo all the Sport, oh dear, Maynard my Special Friend it’s so commmmon and tedious, I in latter days used to and still do wave a dismissive hand-back at the reality TV and the unreality TV and the fake pretending to be real pretending to be fake winking at the real, I did, I do, but you know what? these days I love it all. I love it all in equal measure to how much I despise it because I am absolutely sure that things, where ‘things’ is meant to be Our Collective Cultural Heritage A-squander, where ‘things’ is meant to be the inexorable ramscoop of the idiocracy screaming V2ey nose-down into the fake peatbog made of plastic turf and celebrity poop, it’s OK that it’s all turning to Entertainment and Distraction at a rate of (k)nots, and I get a Roma-rsonist frisson from tossing my cigarette butts and lighting support blazes out on the periphery hoping ring-a-rosy all burn down without me having to make a stand.
So, yeah. Hockey is stupid, duh, but you know what: the problem with hockey is that it’s not nearly as goddamn stupid as it used to be or should be, when the gladiators dropped glove and knocked pearly white teeths out onto the ice in a spray of blood. It’s gotten smarter since then, instrumentally more reasonable, disappointingly less savage, and that’s a cheat and a con and it’s more modern and marketed and less satisfying.
Fucking weedy reedy thinskinned worthless goddamn civilization we’ve built.
It’s all weird and fractured. It’s all electrical and chemical. It’s all bump and grind. It’s all cheese and mustard. It’s all time to drink and go to work. It’s all fuck you buddy and love your neighbour. It’s all speak truth to power and hunker down. It’s all shitstorm and cherry blossom. It’s all shits and giggles. It’s all 2.0 and it’s all in beta. It’s all primal scream and raised eyebrow. It’s all therapy and meds. It’s all beer and skittles. It’s all anger and love. It’s all young things and old farts. It’s all permalinks and permagrins. It’s all disappointment and hope. It’s all pimples and slipped discs. It’s all be, it’s all do. It’s all epistemology and metaphysics. It’s all cigarettes and beer. It’s all desire and it’s all thirst and hunger, it’s all middle way and eight-fold path, and it’s all a sacrament. It’s all beginnings and endings, and ends of beginnings, and beginnings of ends. It’s all dying young and cheating death. It’s all cancer wards and Pringles. It’s all rock and roll. It’s all good fun.
It’s all Cheap Trick at the Budokan. It’s all strungout sunrise, it’s all smell of night air. It’s all champagne Caribbean surf and acid artifacts. It’s better than the alternative. It’s all guitar and drum. It’s all night and all day. It’s all that you touch, it’s all that you see, all you taste, all you feel, it’s all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal. It’s failing flesh and willing spirit.
It’s all too hard, it’s all too goddamn easy. It’s all better than the alternative.
It’s just a kiss away, it’s just a kiss away.
…so in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty, I think of Dean Moriarty.
A Poetry Break brought to you by the fine people in the AudioVisual Division of Wonderchicken Industries™
My two-week visit to back to Canada, by the numbers.
- years since previous visit: 4
- kilometres driven: 3270
- members of personal pantheon of heroes (of 5 surviving) drunk with: 4
- percentage doing better than last time I saw them: 100%
- percentage of them who believe they are dying: 25%
- percentage of them with whom manly tears were shed about one thing or another: 75%
- ways in which I might well have died while rolling ATV into icy bog: 4
- number of beers consumed before said accident: 4
- number of hours before getting some dry clothes on: 3
- number of beers subsequently retrieved from mud under chest-deep icewater: 18
- cameras ruined: 1
- fresh moose carcasses manhandled: 2
- teeth chipped on shot embedded in Canada goose breast: 1
- average price of Canadian cigarettes:$9.50
- approximate price ratio, Canadian/Korean smokes: 4:1
- packs of duty-free Korean cigarettes given away, despite people claiming they didn’t like them: 8
- teeny bottles of maple syrup brought back for coworkers: 11
- number of new cocktails discovered with unrestrained glee: 1
- number of new cocktails discovered whose ingredients cannot be bought in Korea: 1
- car-battery-sized blocks of cheese consumed: 1
- hamburgers eaten: 18
- number of days free of alcohol consumption: 0
- kilograms of weight gain: 3
- unexpected pleasure at returning to Korea, which now feels like home: unlimited
Everybody(1) probably remembers the episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza, newly-single thanks to the timely expiration of his fiancee, celebrates his rebachelorization by lounging sybaritically, half-naked, in front of his TV, with a block of cheese, the symbol of manly freedom.
Jerry: (stares into coffee cup and looks back at George) Problem?
George: The Rosses have started up a foundation, Jerry, and I have to sit on the board of directors.
Jerry: Hey, board of directors. Look at you!
George: Yeah! Look at me! I was free and clear! I was living the dream! I was stripped to the waist, eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery!
Jerry: Before we go any further, I’d just like to point out how disturbing it is that you equate eating a block of cheese with some sort of bachelor paradise.
George: Don’t you see? I’m back in.
Jerry: All because of Wrath of Khan?
Jerry: Well, it was the best of those movies.
[The camera is over George's head and spins around repeatedly as George screams.]
Now, the furthest thing from my mind is any desire for the demise of She Who Must Be Obeyed. I love her dearly, at least when she’s not premenstrual.
But I’m going to Canada this week, for the first time in four years, for a two-week visit. And the wife, she decided that she wasn’t really up for it this time, and quite happily gave me her blessings to do it alone. We are very rarely apart, and never for more than a couple of days at a time, and though I will miss her, this trip, [this is good]. A fella (particularly one with a past as spotted and a present as buttoned-down as me) needs some time to go stupid sometimes, or at least stupider than usual.
The thoughts of many men — and almost all Korean men, if the nudgey-winky questions of my students and male colleagues are any guide — might turn to matters illicit and concupiscent, perhaps, in such a situation. Not me. I am and always have been a one-woman man, in large part because I simply don’t have the energy that the alternative would require.
Me, though? My first thought (after, of course, sugarplum-fairy dancing spectral images of the dog-choking quantities of quality booze that I’ll be able to drink and fine tobacco I’ll be able to smoke, without the mild concomitant guilt brought on by the presence of a well-meaning but disapproving spouse)?
I pictured myself shirtless, driving a rental car that glorious roadtrippy thousand kilometres between Vancouver and my home town, with Mötörhead cranked up, gnawing on a block of cheese the size of a car battery.
Oh, yes. Oh my.
I may write some updates from the road, if I have the time. On the other hand, I just might have a myocardial infarction. But it’s going to be fun.
1 And I mean that literally, of course.
[Update:] I’m baa-aack. Proof of a time well-had:
I was somewhere between point A and point B, as I had been for most of the decade in question. For most of my life, when it came to it. Wait, that’s not the way to start it. Let me try again.
I’ve never been as fascinated by sex as most people seem to be, but there was a lost few days that I remember….
No, that’s not how I want to tell this story either.
One more time.
There was this girl in high school. She was attractive, splendidly put together, but clumsy somehow. Unpopular, invisible. And smart. Too smart, and too interested in making sure that people knew it. Me, I was smart too, but I spent as much time as possible trying to rebrand it, at least to those elements of the cabal that didn’t appreciate that kind of thing. I was as kind to her as I was to most people, because I was a nice guy, especially when I was sober, even as I was limping unsuccessfully after other, unobtainable young women, stealth erection tucked down my leg.
Most of a decade after high school, I had decanted myself back into the Old Home Town after a time drinking and sailing in Mexico, skinny tan squinty pickled and worldy-arrogant, and we met again, and drank together, and she was magnificent. Gorgeous, and grace had replaced teen clumsiness. Apparently, she’d been in teenage love with me. Oh.
We screwed like minks on the floor at the foot of her parents’ bed after the bar closed. Her parents were in a nearby town dealing with the aftermath of her grandmother’s death, which was why she was also back in town. It was one of those things that happen, and it was nice, and fleeting. And hotter than hell, I tell you now.
Months later, and I was making my way back down to the big city. I’d saved a couple of thousand dollars working mill and was ready to buy a ticket out again, to wherever. Wherever had treated me pretty damn well before. She’d left an open invite to come and stay with her, anytime, and I decided to take her up on it.
That’s where the whole ‘I’ve never been dick-led’ thing that I mentioned comes in. I didn’t love her, sex was a thing that I liked but didn’t crave: I didn’t know what the f–k, but I was 20-something, and I wanted to walk through whatever doors opened up in front of me, on principle if nothing else. And that illicit carpet sex had been… good.
So I rolled into her town on the Greyhound, called her, and she picked me up, and we went to the liquor store, and she bought half a dozen bottles of liquor, and we went to her house, and we f–ked a lot.
We drank — or, mostly, I drank, at the arborite-and-aluminum table in the kitchen of her small, neat apartment — and then we f–ked. Mornings, she went to work, and I stayed, and wrote, and smoked, and waited until the afternoon to drink again. I don’t remember eating during those 4 or 5 days but I suppose we must have.
It wasn’t love driving the lust, which was a new thing, at least for me. It was an echo of love for her, maybe, a salute to an unrequited one a decade old. It was good for both of us, I supposed and I liked to think, in completely different ways.
The night before I left — and this was the memory that started me telling this story, this story I couldn’t figure out how to start, and now, having started, have reservations about telling its denouement — it was Saturday night and Canada-cold, we were drunk as lords, and I was going down on her, and her muscles were a-twitch and her transported. I was proud as hell that I was making her come. I’d never known a women before who had her own apartment and all.
As the orgasm rolled over her, she let a massive fart out on my chin. It was a ripper. I took it with aplomb — I had at least a bottle of scotch in me — and looked up after it had finished, over the smooth terrain of her belly. Staring at the ceiling, as the muscles on the insides of her thighs quivered and quieted against my ears, she said “I didn’t get to see my grandma before she died.”
We drank some more that night after we got dressed. I left the next day, and we parted friends.
I don’t know what this story means, but the memory came to me tonight as I drank my beer, and I thought I’d tell it, because I miss writing shit down sometimes.
Here’s a new post-series that I’ve just decided I’m going to do, you know, until I lose interest: the greatest wonderchicken drinking songs. Ever. Because I’m on the beer again, and I’m all lovificated, and by god I want to share the joy. Yes, the joy.
So, without further ado, here’s number one in a series of several thousand. I hope it makes you wiggle your butt.
Mojo Nixon — Positively Bodies Parking Lot ([Update: mp3 taken down after a couple days. Thanks for playing!])
The Syndicate of Soul is playing
At the Free Frank Frenzy
Me and Mitch are
Drinking ourselves into gin oblivion
Hold onto this, hold onto that
Man I know just where we’re at
Cause it’s Positively Bodies Parking Lot
I’m going back there,
I can’t stop
Got a bottle of beer out of the back out my car
Underage girls going in the back door
Yeah we’re outside the world famous The All-Dive Bar
Crazed couples are pumping away behind the Dipsy Dumpster of Love
Lorna Doone queen of the ladies room got herself a new bridegroom
He’s buying a rubber there in the bathroom
With a thousand tiny pleasure spikes
His buddy’s puking in the sink for the third time that night
Gopher killing, bullethead, taking pictures with the infrared
The regulars are glued to their barstools
And Jose Sinatra, he’s starting to drool
But his feet are getting mighty small, and I’m standing there in the hall
Tomcats singing wild and true, blasting out the super blues
It’s a Friday night in the summertime, I’m going out my mind
Harvey’s teeth are scaring me, go down to the ditch to take a pee
Crickets are singing a Beat Farmers song
I can smell Alberto’s mighty strong
Jack and his wife just backed over the fire hydrant
The water’s shooting high in the sky
And the Silver Eagle motorcycles are drowning there, don’t you know
Country Dick and the Snugglebunnies got me in an airplane spin
I’m thinking about gin, sin, and these three ex-girlfriends
They done showed up to squoosh my head, but I was saved by this guy they call
Well they call him Mojo’s dad cause he’s a screaming lunatic
Librarian from El Cajone checking out my love bone
Redhead says that she wants me to dance
Rock Jet’s got everybody in a trance
Peak expectations causin’ intoxications
I can smell the mating dance of fornication
Be young, be foolish
Blasting out of the jukebox
Two a.m., lights are on, nobody can stop, nobody’s going home
Can’t leave, can’t go anywhere, cause you know you’re already there
It’s positively Bodies parking lot
Positively Bodies parking lot
Positively Bodies parking lot
It’s positively Bodies parking lot
Yes it’s positively Bodies parking lot
Collect them all!
Ha! Ha! f–kin’ magic.
f–kin’ magic, man.
No, seriously. It’s magic.
Did you stash any beers? Somebody f–kin’ drank all mine. There’s got to be some more beers around here somewhere. You got? Really? Dude, I’ll owe you. Thank f–k.
Thanks, man. Thanks.
So, I’m remembering, and listening, and I have this to share, even though I know you’ve read it before :
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?
The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old. I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found. I think of Dean Moriarty, I think of Dean Mor-i-arty.”
It’s performance that makes words worth something, or it’s wank.